Innovation is the origin of entrepreneurship. For this reason alone, it is vital for inventors to protect their ideas. The only legal way to do that is to obtain a patent. A patent is a legal right given by the government to an inventor, which gives the inventor the right to exclude others from producing or using the invention or discovery for a certain amount of time. In most cases, this time period is 20 years from the date the patent application is filed. However, patents, similar to other property rights, can be renewed, sold, mortgaged, given away, or even abandoned.
However, obtaining a grant to protect your intellectual property is not just a simple procedure. Instead, it is an intricate process governed by the federal patent laws, which often requires the aid of a patent agent. The term patent agent and patent lawyer are often used interchangeably. Yet there are some slight differences between the two. Just like a patent attorney, a patent agent has the same license given by the United States Patent Office, which allows them to represent clients before the Patent Office. In addition, both agents and lawyers can also prepare, file, and pursue an application for a patent. However, a patent lawyer can provide legal services pertaining to intellectual property while an agent cannot. Furthermore, an agent cannot represent a client before the Trademark Office, a branch of the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO).
Yet for those who whish to obtain a patent for their invention, discovery, or design, a patent agent would be sufficient. Not only would an agent be capable of doing the research that is needed to prove that your intellectual work is original, but they will also be able to produce the needed documentation for the Patent Office, which includes a complete and technical description of an invention. To become a registered patent agent, a person must pass the USPTO registration examination, which is also referred to as the patent bar. This exam tests an individual’s knowledge of patent law and the procedures of the USPTO. However, patent agents must also posses a sufficient technical and scientific background in order to understand the inventions they may try to patent.
There are three types of patents:
Utility Patents: an utility patent is a patent that is given to an individual who “invents or discovers any new and useful process, machine, article of manufacture, or composition of matter, or any new and useful improvement”
Design Patents: a design patent can be given to anyone who “invents a new, original, and ornamental design for an article of manufacture”
Plant patents: a plant patent can given to anyone who “invents or discovers and asexually reproduces any distinct and new variety of plant”